Department of Astronomy Center for Radiophysics & Space Research

Francois Hebert

Professor Saul Teukolsky
Francois Hebert

Research Area:

 Theoretical Astrophysics, Numerical General Relativity, Black Holes and Neutron Stars

Research Projects:

SXS collaboration


I am a third-year graduate student working in the numerical relativity group under Prof. Teukolsky. My research explores the application of discontinuous Galerkin PDE integration algorithms to problems in numerical relativity.


One aspect of numerical relativity is the use of supercomputers to simulate the inspiral and mergers of pairs of compact objects (black holes or neutron stars). As these objects spiral towards each other, they lose energy and angular momentum in the form of gravitational waves. We expect that next-generation detectors such as Advanced LIGO will detect these waves, but the data analysis will require a prediction of the their shape — predictions which are obtained from numerical simulations. While mergers of binary black hole systems have been simulated with good accuracy, this has not yet been possible for black hole-neutron star or binary neutron star mergers. This is in part due to the tendency of shocks to form within the matter of the star, as these are difficult to handle numerically.

I am interested in discontinuous Galerkin methods because they allow for a more accurate treatment of these systems than our current code, by drawing from both finite-element methods (for high-order convergence in smooth regions) and finite-volume methods (for treating shocks). I am taking advantage of these capabilities to improve our simulations of neutron star mergers. My work is supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

When I'm not tinkering with code, I enjoy ballroom dancing and am a member of Cornell's dancesport team. When it's not too cold, I also like being outdoors hiking or riding my bike.